Since its 1998 inception, the college football Bowl Championship Series (BCS) has become the most hated postseason event in the country – even drawing a 2011 Department of Justice investigation for possible violation of antitrust laws. Relying on a mix of human polls and stat-crunching computers to determine the annual title-game matchup, the series also uses a sequence of convoluted contingencies that decide which top teams get to compete in high-stakes bowl games, an opaque process that inevitably outrages fans and even caused President Obama, in 2008, to argue for a change to the system. Now, change we can believe in has arrived. In 2014, college football is taking a page from the NCAA March Madness playbook and debuting its first-ever postseason bracket: the College Football Playoff.
The playoff will feature the four highest-ranked teams in the country, as selected and seeded by a 13-person selection committee (which includes Condoleezza Rice), in New Year's Day semifinal matches and a title game to follow. Ahead of the transition, we caught up with Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, who will be in charge of the new playoffs. "Time's change," Hancock told us. "The fans want a bracket."
We asked Hancock to explain why the playoffs were the right decision and what college football fans can expect next season. Here are his responses.
Why ditch the polls?
We've all seen the human element in the NCAA committees. Of course, the one everyone's most familiar with is basketball, but every sport has a "basketball" committee, where human beings take the objective data, review it, crunch it, and then make subjective decisions. So I think generally the reason that it's a human committee now – rather than the combination of humans and computers – is just that it was a new day, a time for a fresh beginning, and we all are aware that the NCAA committees have worked so well, and our group just decided, 'Hey if it works for them, then it should work for us, too.' Even the BCS selection process is dominated by humans. I saw a piece the other day, I can't verify it, that the computers have never trumped the humans in the final BCS standings. Point is that decisions have been made by humans throughout the BCS era.
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